...The reality is it’s okay to have healthy boundaries even in ministry! Even though you want to be Christlike to all, not everybody can be your best friend or work closely with you, particularly when there are unresolved issues.
By: Aaron Babyar
In being Christlike, one of the topics that can be difficult for people to engage with is developing proper boundaries. In fact, if you have never read the book ‘Boundaries’ by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, I highly recommend it. But where does that apply to ministry? Believe it or not, this is completely relevant to our ministry relationships with other organizations, as well as our other pastors, church planters, missionary workers, youth workers, etc.
One of the questions that you may have to occasionally step back and ask is, “Am I meeting someone else’s needs, and are they meeting mine as well?” If you aren’t, why not? If you are, where? And if there is tension, can that tension be addressed? In a healthy relationship, when there’s tension, there can be a give and take in communication and things will tend to improve. However, in an unhealthy situation, one, if not both people, will refuse to acknowledge faults, not make attempts at making changes, and blame or otherwise show immature relational ability to move past the tension. When that happens, then the question is if there is a need to change the relationship. How can you end this relationship well without creating an enemy?
The reality is it’s okay to have healthy boundaries even in ministry! Even though you want to be Christlike to all, not everybody can be your best friend or work closely with you, particularly when there are unresolved issues. If we look to Matthew 18 as an example, it talks about how if a brother sins against you, it is best to go to him personally before going back with someone else. It continues beyond that, but I believe the main point is, let’s talk with people, not about people, as that will typically go a long way in helping to address the problem.
By way of example, consider Paul and Barnabus. Here were two godly men, loved by the churches, filled with the Spirit, enduring persecution together and seeing effective ministry. Yet they were fallible and did not see eye to eye on everything. They had disagreements and parted ways. Even the best and most faithful among us are prone to interpersonal conflicts and mistakes. We are all fallen human beings. The ministries of both men continued—in fact, the number of missionary teams doubled! God can use even our disagreements to further His work.
Most of us have experienced people who have talked about you instead of to you. In fact I experienced this very recently from someone I have interacted a lot with in ministry, and it kinda hurt. I think it could have been “solved,” but the situation was made worse because of increasing poor and erratic communication. In situations like this, I advise people towards grace, communicating as best as possible, attempting to work through issues, but also understanding that perhaps its time to reach a peaceable parting of ways. The person whom I had the tension with is a valuable brother in Christ! But the amount of energy and effort it was taking to maintain a working relationship was not ultimately going to be the wisest use of my time/energy/resources that I need to be focusing elsewhere. So though it was difficult, I actually believe our peaceful parting of ways truly was for the best.
Boundaries and communication skills are vital for our relationships in all areas of life. With this in mind, let’s strive to have healthy ministries, while realizing that not every situation and partnership was intended to be permanent.
Aaron Babyar is the founder and CEO of Exago Ministries. To read more about Aaron, go HERE.